Paul sent out a text to our family suggesting Arby’s instead of our usual weekly lunch at my parents’ house. He had a sheet of coupons that could feed us all for a reasonable price. If in 2002 you would have told me that in 2018 Paul would love alcohol and Arby’s more than I do, I would have asked you if I was dead. Yet here we are.
“Next year, we need to have someone take our family Christmas card right here,” I said between bites of delicious Arby’s roast beef. My mom laughed but I was kind of serious. We had a great lunch yesterday, in part because it was our first time together since the missile scare.
My mom said it made her realize that if it were to happen, there’s probably no way we’d be together. She’s right. I came to the same conclusion on Saturday night. An unsettling part of the whole ordeal, I think, is that the false alarm dismantled our hypothetical theories about what it might be like, how we might act. What we learned, I think, is that we won’t really be able to do anything. That’s the root, I think, of a lot of the emotions.
But by Sunday morning, our family was happy to be together again. “Dad just told Matty to close all the windows,” Tanya told me. “‘I’m gonna turn on the AC’ he said,” she finished. I laughed. “This is why I am who I am,” I told Lynnette. “Oh, my God,” she said, rolling her eyes. Paul bristled loudly at the fact that our parents didn’t call him during or after the warning. Sensing weakness, I went in for the kill. “Wait, mom and dad didn’t call you? She called us almost immediately,” I said. Paul didn’t even have time to react before Matty jumped in with “They probably thought you were still hungover and wouldn’t answer the phone, anyway.” Paul laughed. “Okay, fair,” he said. “But still,” he continued. “You should have called your favorite son, even if the cancellation went into effect…” and before he even finished, my dad turned away from him and rolled his eyes. “What have I created?” he asked rhetorically. He shook his head. Seated next to him, I laughed out loud. “I’m the chillest guy…” he muttered to himself. I had never seen my dad do that before. “OK, but did mom and dad really call you?” Paul said. I laughed. “No!” I said.
After lunch, Dad zipped home to catch his beloved Vikings play the Saints. The rest of us stayed at Pearlridge to shop. About an hour later, our family of five went to pick up dessert from Baldwin’s. I picked one up for dad to drop off. We got to the H, dropped off his rainbow with ice cream, then started off again in hopes of driving the twins into a nap. The problem was the twins already saw Grandma and Grandpa’s house and revolted as we drove away. “Just drop the three of us off at the house,” I said. “What?” Lynnette asked. “They’re mad at us because we’re not going to my parents’ house. Drop us off and you go do Mommy-Madison Time,” I said. “Really? What are we gonna do?” Lynnette said. “I don’t know. Go get pedicures,” I said. “Ooohhhh!!! I want a pedicure!” Madison said. “For real?” Lynnette said. “Yeah,” I said.
My dad started getting nervous as the Saints mounted their second-half comeback. “You guys not gonna do this to me again, are you?” he said wistfully in the final 10 minutes of the game.
When the Saints took a 21-20 lead, he sat up in his seat and said “Alright, Keenum, let’s see what you got.” When Fox cut away to show highlights of past Viking playoff failures via field goal, my dad was beside himself. “Why they gotta do that?” he said to no one, but probably Joe Buck.
He exhaled as Kai Forbath’s 53-yard field goal gave Minnesota a 2-point lead. But the very next thing he did was look at the clock. “That’s too much time for Brees,” he said of the 1:29 remaining. He knew. A lifetime as a sports fan and decades of having his fandom go unrewarded have taught him, conditioned him about what to expect from his favorite teams.
Brees did what Brees does and left the Vikings a scant 25 seconds away from another heartbreaker. My dad, Paul, and I started running scenarios: pass over the middle, hustle up, spike. As the seconds melted away, so too did our possible win-scenarios. “They have to make a 20 yard catch and then somehow get out of bounds,” I said. My dad didn’t answer. Of all the things we came up with, “touchdown pass” did not even occur to us. Then, this happened:
I took these pictures after the initial play. This is my dad reacting to the replay. It may as well have been in the first time because he was almost catatonic when the touchdown happened in real time. I jumped on him and hugged him as Diggs threw his helmet in the end zone. “Did that really just happen?” my dad kept saying over and over. He didn’t celebrate. As an embattled sports fan of a star-crossed franchise, he knew better. He waited. He looked at the clock. He looked for flags. He wanted to be sure this moment would not be ripped away from him. And then when he was sure, he shouted and cheered. Then – and this is the best part – got upset that Fox didn’t show Millie, a 99-year-old Vikings fan who was in attendance in her FIRST VIKINGS PLAYOFF GAME. Why? OGs respect OGs.
I don’t know if the Vikings will win the Super Bowl. Hell, I’m not even sure they’ll beat the Eagles in Philly next weekend. But my dad will always have the Minnesota Miracle. Watching my dad bask in it was almost as good as the Mets or Cowboys winning a big game. And, since neither of those two things will ever happen, I get to live vicariously through my father.
I’m so glad the Vikings came through for you. I’m glad I was there to witness it with you. Thank you for helping me become a sports fan. You didn’t tell me that 99% of the time it sucks. But yesterday you reminded me that the other 1% is always worth it.